SALISBURY households will see an increase in the city council’s share of their council tax bill of almost 44% in a bid to balance the books.
Salisbury City Council approved its budget proposals for 2023/24, including the rise in its share of council tax bills, on Monday (January 16).
The council says it needs to raise a total of more than £5.1 million through council tax in order to continue providing services.
The increase sees the city council’s share of council tax bills rise from £233 last year to £335 – a 43.8% increase – for a Band D property. Bills for Band C properties – the most common in Salisbury – rise from £207.08 to £297.78.
But council chiefs said it was not a ‘fancy budget’ and that cuts had been made in a number of areas in order to balance the books and replenish reserves.
A statement from leaders of the council – Cllr Victoria Charleston, Cllr Ian Tomes and Cllr Annie Riddle – said: “This is not a party political budget. It is a balanced budget. The city council’s reserves cannot be raided. They are already at the minimum level, and must be rebuilt.
“Like households and businesses everywhere in this economic crisis, we face hugely increased costs.
“Ours include the management of assets such as the Poultry Cross, where insurance will not cover all the repairs found to be needed after last year’s car crash, and upgrading our public toilets and playgrounds.”
Staffing had seen significant increases, they said, including bringing grounds and Street Scene operations back in-house and an average wage increase of 8% for council staff.
“Since our previous budget in January 2022, we’ve had an increase of 223% in our electricity charges, 208% on gas and 50% on water and sewerage,” the leaders said.
“Combined, these take our utility bills over half a million pounds.
“We’ve had a nationally agreed pay rise for staff averaging 8%, with another 4% allowed for in the next financial year.
“Our insurance has more than doubled to £160,000. And we’re facing an unknown rise in business rates in April. We also have to pay higher employers’ pension contributions – up from 11.1 to 13.7%.”
Only much-needed community services would escape cuts, they added, with some initiatives being cut altogether, or given reduced budgets.
“We are not funding any fancy new projects,” they said. “We are maintaining much-needed community services such as the Pantry and looking at co-working with a charity to reduce our overheads.
“We have reduced or cut entirely spending on other things which are not our core responsibility, such as city centre security guards, policing of litter louts, and public art.
“We have cut £10,000 from the Neighbourhood Plan budget, reduced spending on floral displays, ring road cleansing, the Future Salisbury group which promotes the city, and on our Christmas and summer events budget (down 10%).
“We have repeatedly invited the Conservatives to share in the council’s joint administration but they say they prefer to be in opposition.
“Nonetheless, we invited them to join us in preparing this budget. They didn’t even reply.”
The budget came as Wiltshire Council announced it planned to increase its council tax demand, as well as social rents, in its budget proposals. (https://salisburyandavon.co.uk/news/council-tax-and-social-rents-to-rise-under-wiltshire-budget-proposals/)